Book review: Bikenomics, by Elly Blue

With so many bike enthusiasts in my grad school program, and a biker myself, I had planned to read this book for quite a while. Now that I have graduaded, I thought I could take the time.

This is a short (less than 200 pages), very interesting book that outlines the many advantages and positive aspects of biking. While not a panacea to absolutely all our problems, biking could solve or help solve a laundry list of issues such as

  1. Crumbling infrastructure in the US,
  2. Road mortality (30,000+ every year in America),
  3. Air pollution (and climate change),
  4. Healthcare with rising levels of obesity and diabetes due to lack of physical activity,
  5. Traffic congestion,
  6. The horror of finding parking,
  7. Inequality and poverty (owning a car is just so expensive, over $10,000 per year)…

For each and every of these topics (and more), the author, Elly Blue, brings up-to-date facts and figures from examples around the world. She has been touring around the US and now the world to meet up with biking activitists and how they are bringing back bicycles to our cities. She indeed has been writing for Grist.org and other websites on that very topic. Her passion for ” la petite reine” is endearing and communicative.

The only negative thing I would say about this book is that I wish it were updated (it was published in late 2013 and a lot happened in the field in three years). I hope the author will do so to take into account the new studies published on the benefits of biking as well as how this transportation is taking over the world and evolving.

Among the recent evolutions that are very promising to the expansion of biking are electric bikes systems, with an electric wheel costing as little as $200. For someone who is not the fittest but still wants to start biking, such systems are a boon. I was reading a customer review on Amazon from a guy who went from 300 to 200 pounds (136 to 90 kgs) in a year just by starting biking with an electric assist.

The second recent promising evolution of biking is dockless sharing systems like the ones that have started to pop up this summer in Seattle, WA. These systems are cheaper to maintain and expand than regular ones and could thus spread biking over large urban areas. So far, this is a success here as the Seattle Weekly reported but we will have to see how winter and pouring rains impact them.

To conclude: this book is an absolute read if you are into sustainability, urban planning, healthcare, transportation… I hope this will spur an increase in the speed of the takeover of cycling in our cities. Reading this gives you all the numbers and arguments you need to promote a velo-rution !

Bikenomics, by Elly Blue
Microcosm Publishing
Less than $ 15.

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